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USAirways – Can an airline operate like this?

The sheer incompetence shown by the US Airways Express staff at Charlotte airport last night was almost hard to believe. Could an airlines operations be so messed up that their own Gate Agents and their supervisors would not know for over two and a half hours what the status of a flight was? Or was the gate staff just so incompetent and unprofessional that they just didn’t care? I do not know which one was the truth (probably somewhere in-between) and how this is even possible for a ‘major’ airline.


The flight in question was flight US 2794 from Charlotte (CLT) to Washington Dulles (IAD), on July 17th. The flight was scheduled to leave at 7:59PM. I was in the US Airways lounge. My original flight, slated to leave at 6:02 PM had been cancelled and I was rebooked on this one. (US Airways cancelled the flight, called me with a recorded message with the info and never rebooked me on another flight. I had to stand in line at the lounge to get this done. Why they do not rebook passengers from a cancelled flight on the next one automatically, I have no idea. It just adds load on customer service agents. But that for another post). I had used the lounge pass I got from my US Airways credit card to get in the lounge once I knew I will be at the airport for a while. (They give one free pass every year).

So, at 7:20 I start the long walk over to gate E38 (the farthest gate from the lounge). I am already concerned because according to the usairways.com website, the first leg of this flight, from Knoxville, TN (TYS) had been cancelled. I am hoping they have another aircraft available they plan to use. As I reach the gate, the board above the gate shows flight is on time. Whew – I breath easy.

7:35 – no boarding announcement. Flights is listed as still being on time. All is well…


7:40 – no boarding announcement still. No biggie. This is a shared gate. They are busy boarding another flight…

7:45 – passengers who were standing in line at the gate start wandering around talking about ‘waiting for a plane’. Board still says flight on time.  

7:50 – I am now in line to talk to the GA. I refresh my usairways.com flight status page (they do not have an App) and it says flight is ‘Awaiting takeoff’!

7:55 – I finally get to the GA (she is the supervisor, I find out). She says that they are awaiting aircraft. I ask if it is in the air coming in from somewhere? She says no, it is in the airport awaiting a tow to the gate… I show her the webpage with the status. She says she has no control over what the website says. I point out that the screen on her gate says the flight is on time. She says she has no control over that too.

8:05 – No aircraft. The board above the gate stops showing our flight. We ask, she says that the flight is not cancelled. She has no control over the board. The webpage still shows we are ‘awaiting takeoff’.

8:30 – Still no aircraft. I ask the GA again and she says they are waiting for the plane to be towed over. She does not know when. We ask if we should leave and get food. No response. Webpage still says ‘awaiting takeoff’.

9:00-ish – I find the GA wandering about and ask her what is the status. She says the aircraft is here and we should be leaving in ’15 to 20 minutes’. I ask her if that was her estimate or a formal statement? She walks away without responding.

9:10 – The GA picks up the announcement microphone and announces that the ‘plane is at the gate and we should be leaving in 15-20 minutes’.

9:15 – The flight re-appears on the board. Departure time 9:26.

9:30 – Boarding still not started. I ask again. She says she has no idea when the flight will leave as the full crew is not here. I ask her why she made an announcement that the flight will leave in 15 – 20 minutes. She replies she never made such an announcement! I point to other passengers saying we all heard the announcement. She then GA gets upset and started telling me that I am bothering her. Other GA gather around her. I ask why the board says leaving at 9:26? She repeats, she has no control over the board. Repeats she never said when the flight would leave.

9:35 – I speak to a pilot standing near the gate. He says he is the captain of our flight and they are awaiting a flight attendant. He has no idea where she is or when she would arrive.

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9:45 – Still no boarding. The board now says 10:09 departure. I ask another GA. (I was staying away from the one who got upset that she made an announcement everyone heard). He says they have no idea what was going on and they only say what operations tells them. So, it’s US Airways operations fault that we the passengers have been abandoned for over two hours? I ask. No, he says, operations only says what ATC (Air Traffic Control) tells them. So, we were stranded by ATC? Me says. He walks away.

9:55 – We finally start boarding.

10:05-ish – We are still on the ground. I fall asleep…

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11:40 – We land at IAD. I ask the GA at IAD if they were giving any compensation for a flight delayed by over 2 hours? She looks at me funny…

How can a real airline operate like this? Is no one responsible? Do they care?

I had also tweeted the @usairways during the ordeal. They responded with a weird tweet which said nothing. Next tweet was ignored.

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  1. Please tell me the gate agent’s name was Tamara. I was in Charlotte a few months ago and had an unspeakable incident with this GA. Filed a complaint with USAir and of course, nothing.

  2. USAgony . . , as a regular American flyer, I get the feeling things aren’t going to go well with the merger . . .

  3. This summarizes the majority of my experiences with US Airways and the reason I am dreading the merger with US execs at the top.

  4. We were also flying out of Charlottes to Charlottesville. Our son called me at the airport to tell me that our flight was delayed about 90 minutes before the gate agents knew about the delay. We had to wait for the flight to leave Charlotte to go elsewhere in order to come back to Charlotte to take us to CHO. Couldn’t they have figured out sooner that the flight would be delayed????

  5. @Matt, ROFL
    @Will, I refrain from mentioning any employees name on my blog.

  6. The GA had her faults (announcing boarding but then denying it, etc) and communication between the gate and Ops was bad, but it looks like you were harassing her, asking the same questions multiple times even though you were getting the same answers.

  7. You sound petulant. US is far from perfect, especially on the technology front. But flying in the summer after 3PM – especially when there is bad weather anywhere that could effect an inbound aircraft – this is what happens. I’m not denying the airline has problems, but your presentation sounds more like, “they didn’t know who I am”, rather than a comment on a difficult day of travel.

  8. @Steve, I don’t know how you read this as me saying ‘look who I am’. I was just trying to get an answer on what the status was. I travel almost every week. Many many flighst are delayed. It’s all about how an airline handles the delay. Read my last post on how an airline SHOULD handle delays.

  9. @JD, many of the customers and I kept asking cause we were getting no answer. Should an airline really expect 40+ passengers to just stand at a gate for 2+ hours with no flight status or update?

  10. > Should an airline really expect 40+ passengers to just stand at a gate for 2+ hours with no flight status or update?

    I totally agree with you here, what I’m saying is that the way you described your interactions with the GAs don’t come across as being irreproachable either.

  11. This is consistent with the treatment that I’ve received from US in the past; but unfortunately, it’s also consistent with the treatment that I’ve received from other airlines. There simply is no culture of customer service, and the employees are so disenfranchised that they just don’t care anymore.

  12. Is this the worst thing that happened to you? Ask yourself, what are your expectations? Walk a mile in someone else shoes!

  13. sounds like a bad gate agent who didn’t have the gumption to press the issue. As a Charlotte based FF (USAIR)I can tell you that things go more smoothly at this airport than any of the others I pass through.

  14. @MJ, This is not the worst thing that has happened to me. It is certainly the worst scenario I have seen in my decades of traveling where an airline’s GA’s were so clueless and uninterested in finding out for the passengers when the flight would actually be ready t leave.

  15. This NEVER happens to me on US Airways! – It’s because I NEVER fly US Airways for precisely these reasons! US Air sucks. LOL

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